University Hospital joining Piedmont Healthcare system, $1 billion investment to come

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — University Hospital is preparing to usher in a new era. The hospital announced Wednesday it signed a non-binding letter-of-intent with Piedmont Healthcare, initiating a due-diligence period between the two. Piedmont is the largest healthcare system in Georgia with hospitals in Athens, Columbus, Atlanta and areas surrounding the Atlanta area. It serves 70 percent of the state’s population.

“We are seeking to continue to grow to serve the needs of Georgia,” Kevin Brown, the CEO of Piedmont Healthcare, says. “We are an organization that was founded in Georgia. We are here to serve Georgians.”

“I think this is a great deal for our community and employees,” Jim Davis, the CEO of University Healthcare System, adds. “I think this is is an awesome opportunity to make Augusta set up for a long time to have great care here.”

Piedmont Healthcare plans to invest “more than $1 billion over 10 years to enhance and expand University facilities, information technology, clinical infrastructure and operational capabilities to better serve the diverse healthcare needs of the region.” An additional $2 million will be spent “annually to support community benefit programs and other initiatives to address health disparities and inequities.”

“There are so many opportunities around the city and area to reach those who don’t have normal access to healthcare,” Brandon Garrett, an Augusta-Richmond County commissioner, says. “Since we [University Hospital] are the convalescent hospital, you’re going to see those services extended.”

“We have a deep commitment to take care of the healthcare needs of everyone within the community regardless of their ability to pay,” Brown adds.

The letter of itnent was the first of several steps before the acquisition is approved. The deal will be presented to Georgia’s Attorney General later this year. Davis tells NewsChannel 6 it is not expected to be approved until late 2021. While changes happen behind the scenes, Davis says University’s employees should not worry.

“We don’t see any major layoffs coming from this. In healthcare, we’re begging for people right now.”

As for patients, Davis says they should not expect their healthcare to change.

“People will still go to their same doctors. They’re going to go to the same buildings we have. The name may change, but they’re going to get care from the people they know, trust and have always gotten here.”

A new name has not been selected. Davis tells NewsChannel 6 he expects it to be “Piedmont Augusta.”

Key details of the LOI include commitments to:

  • Establish University as the Piedmont Healthcare Augusta “Hub” for clinical services.
  • Leverage the expertise of Piedmont Healthcare to enhance high-quality care as well as improve operational expertise.
  • Invest more than $1 billion over 10 years to enhance and expand University facilities, information technology, clinical infrastructure and operational capabilities to better serve the diverse healthcare needs of the region.
  • Keep local representation on the Board of Directors in place to ensure the community’s voice is heard as part of decision-making regarding the Augusta Clinical Hub.
  • Maintain current staff.
  • Maintain current medical staff membership and privileges. Piedmont will also leverage its resources to recruit additional highly qualified providers to Augusta.
  • Invest at least $2 million annually to support community benefit programs and other initiatives to address health disparities and inequities.
  • Ensure that all fundraising dollars and endowments of the University Health Care Foundation remain local.

Piedmont Hospital was founded in 1905 and like University, are a private not-for-profit system with over 23,000 employees caring for 2.7 million patients which makes up about 70% of Georgia’s population.

Piedmont Healthcare currently operates hospitals in Athens, Columbus, Atlanta and areas surrounding the Atlanta area.

University Healthcare System is the city’s largest healthcare provider, and also serves as the area’s indigent care hospital, taking care of those who are not financially able to as part of the Georgia Indigent Care Trust Fund.

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